11/20/2012 01:04:00 PM

Shaun Hergatt Previews Spring Opening Juni With Vegetable Artistry

Shaun Hergatt, center, cooking in the kitchen of BLT Fish; photos by Melissa Au-Yeung
As a rapt crowd hovered around a starkly lit chef’s table at a restaurant preview on Monday night, onlookers jostled to snap photos of a single finished dessert on the chrome surface. Nestled in a globular glass cup was a tropical swirl of orange and yellow creams, studded with blood orange segments and topped with a few graceful carrot greens and delicate purple flowers. Almost to himself, chef Shaun Hergatt remarked, “That’s Juni.”

Less than a year after saying goodbye to his namesake French-food palace SHO Shaun Hergatt and splitting with partner Asher Zamir, the well-respected chef has landed a new gig as executive chef of ESquared Hospitality (BLT Fish, Casa Nonna) and is back with a new game -- one that puts the seasons’ bounty front and center, elevating it with Hergatt’s arresting art deco presentations. When asked about the idea for Juni, his new haute seasonal project, the Australian-born Hergatt alluded to the influences of “a lot of travel,” including 10 years and counting in New York. Plus, he added, “Everyone loves vegetables.”

Well, maybe not everyone -- but then again, these are not your mama’s veggies.


Carrot Bavarois
While Hergatt intends to “stay true to the flavor” of each ingredient, he also envisions bringing “new ideas and concepts” to the table -- the carrot-cream photo op being just one case in point. The offerings we sampled at his preview made wide use of herbs and flowers: acacia-glazed duck with hyssop pesto and beet leaves; flower-spangled “noodles” whittled from softened portobello mushroom; and celery root panna cotta with flowers and chopped herbs. Hergatt stressed that these were not necessarily Juni menu items to be, but rather articulate expressions of his overarching vision for the restaurant.

Juni will take up residence this spring in the Hotel Chandler (12 East 31st Street). Hergatt tells us it will be an “intimate, personal” affair of just 52 seats, offering a three- to five-course à la carte menu scheduled to change six times a year in order to “feature ingredients when they’re in season” and showcase “the best products we can get our hands on.”

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